The question of which is worse, bulimia or anorexia, is one that is often asked, particularly by those who believe they may have one of these eating disorders. The truth is that both bulimia and anorexia can have devastating consequences for those affected and for their family members. Both are serious mental health issues and while there are similarities between them, there are differences too. It is difficult to say which one is worse because both can be life-threatening if left untreated. Both conditions can cause harm to mental and physical health and both require professional treatment. The one good thing is that help is available and that both conditions can be overcome with the right programme of care and support.
It is extremely difficult to give a definitive answer to the question of which is worse, bulimia or anorexia because it really depends on the severity of the illness and the mental state of the affected individual. While most people might assume that anorexia is worse because it can lead to malnourishment and emaciation, when bulimia is severe it can also lead to severe harm for the individual. Below is an explanation of what each disorder is, and the negative consequences associated with both.
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia is a serious eating disorder that is characterised by episodes of binge eating followed by purging. Those affected by bulimia tend to cycle through bingeing on substantial amounts of food in a short space of time, and then purging themselves of the excess calories by vomiting, taking laxatives or exercising excessively.
These cycles of bingeing and purging tend to dominate daily life and can have a negative impact on the wellbeing of the individual. They can interfere with social interaction with others as well as with personal relationships.
However, because most bulimics tend to have a stable weight, it can be difficult for those close to them to spot the early signs of the illness. As such, bulimia can go unnoticed for a long time.
What is Anorexia?
Anorexia is also a serious eating disorder and one that is characterised by restriction of food intake in a bid to keep weight as low as possible. Individuals with anorexia may also purge themselves by taking laxatives and excessively exercising, but they tend not to binge eat as those with bulimia do. Many sufferers of anorexia have an innate fear of getting fat and tend to avoid foods that they perceive as fattening.
Anorexics tend to see themselves in a completely different way to how everyone else sees them. Their illness causes them to see themselves as needing to lose more weight, even when they are painfully thin and, to everyone else, in need of gaining weight.
Most anorexics will challenge any suggestion that they need to eat more or gain weight. Their distorted body image vision makes them believe that they are never thin enough; even when they know they have lost weight, they will need to lose more.
Spotting the Signs of Bulimia
As previously mentioned, family members and friends often do not spot the signs of bulimia in the early days. Nevertheless, if you are worried about someone you love, look closely at the eating habits and behaviours of this person and check for the following:
Frequently checking his or her body shape or weight
Comparing body shape or weight with other people’s
Becoming obsessed with food, calorie counting and meal preparation
Eating large amounts of food over a short space of time
Disappearing to the bathroom shortly after eating
Staying in the bathroom for a long time and flushing the toilet numerous times
Having a fear of gaining weight
Disguising the smell of vomit with perfume or mints
Calluses on hands and fingers from making themselves vomit.
You may also notice that your loved one is suffering with mood swings and seems tired. You should look for signs of self-harming or evidence of laxative use. If you notice that food is disappearing, look for evidence of a binge; you may find a stash of empty food wrappers in bins or elsewhere in the home.
Spotting the Signs of Anorexia
As most anorexics do not binge on large quantities of food before purging, they tend to lose quite a bit of weight, making it easier for loved ones to notice the problem. Nonetheless, in the early days, family members and friends might miss some of the warning signs. If you are concerned about someone you love, you should look out for the following signs:
A reluctance to eat with others
Making excuses so as not to eat, such as saying they have already eaten or will eat later
Becoming obsessed with calorie counting
Avoiding foods that are deemed to be fattening
Only eating low-calorie foods
Restricting entire food groups
Being fearful of gaining weight
Taking laxatives or diet pills
Becoming obsessed with body weight and shape
Having a distorted body image
Extreme weight loss
Complaining of having no strength.
Anorexics may display signs of irritability and begin isolating themselves from others so that they do not have to eat with them. The affected person will strongly deny any suggestion that there is a problem and might become angry at the suggestion that he or she has lost too much weight.
The Impact of Bulimia on Health
Excessive vomiting can lead to problems that include permanent damage to teeth, vocal chords, and the throat. The cycle of bingeing and purging can cause heart and kidney damage as well as permanent damage to intestines and the stomach. Bulimics often struggle with abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. Tiredness and difficultly sleeping can eventually cause problems with mental and physical health.
The Impact of Anorexia on Health
Like bulimia, anorexia can lead to permanent damage that include erosion of tooth enamel, and damage to organs including the liver, kidney, and heart. It may also lead to infertility or difficulty conceiving. Anorexics are also more likely to suffer with osteoporosis, loss of muscle strength, and physical weakness.
Treatment for Bulimia and Anorexia
Bulimia and anorexia are complex mental health issues that require intervention from experienced counsellors and therapists. It is necessary for those who suffer with these eating disorders to learn how to develop a healthy attitude to eating.
For most people, this will involve an intensive programme of talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, individual counselling, group therapy, and family therapy.
Treating the mind, body and spirit is an essential part of recovery from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Most rehab providers will therefore incorporate traditional talking therapies and holistic treatments in a plan of care. The idea is that the whole person needs to be treated, rather than just the illness.
The aim of treatment is to help challenge negative thought processes and to assist with the development of new and healthy eating patterns. Education on nutrition and healthy exercising can help with this.
Where Does Treatment for Eating Disorders Take Place
For many people, an outpatient programme is sufficient for the treatment of an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia. However, if the illness is severe or if there is a physical or mental risk to the patient, an inpatient programme is often the best option.
In an inpatient facility, patients are given around-the-clock care and support from fully qualified, experienced staff members. They will receive an intensive and concentrated schedule of treatment designed to help them recover in the shortest amount of time.
Is Aftercare Available
As eating disorders are serious conditions, ongoing support is usually necessary. Most rehab providers will include up to a year of aftercare for patients, and there are self-help and support groups available within the local community where patients can meet with others who have experienced similar health problems.
As you can see, there is quite a lot to consider when thinking about which is worse, bulimia or anorexia. The issue is more to do with how the eating disorder has affected the individual than the eating disorder itself. Either condition when at its worst can be devastating.
If you would like to talk further about eating disorders or any other mental health or addiction problem, please call us today. We have a team of advisors who have been fully trained in all types of addiction and behavioural disorders. They can provide information, and advice or answer any queries you may have.
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08 Jul 2020
My treatment at Liberty House has given me the opportunity to make drastic changes in my life and make a new start. For that I will be eternally grateful.
08 Jul 2020
Friendly and knowledgeable staff who will help you through the early stages of recovery. A very nice atmosphere around the place which is helped by both staff and the house itself and garden. All in all it is a brilliant place in which to gain a good foundation on which to build a recovery from addiction.
07 Jul 2020
Very good and friendly service. All needs met, dispite covid its been ok.
06 Jul 2020
I’m hugely fortunate and very grateful to have landed in Liberty House Rehab Clinic. The staff, bar none have been incredibly supportive and honest with me throughout. Tough love at times, but always delivered in a productive way. I’ve learned so much about addiction and myself thanks to them. This is a deeply empathetic and spiritual unit, to which i owe my life. Thank you Rosie and team xx
06 Jul 2020
This service from Liberty house was a very good idea, I would tell other people who suffer from the any issues with alcohol/Drugs to come to liberty house for the best treatment as they make it possible and are always there for you.
06 Jul 2020
I came to get well, and I leave 28 days sober, with a new mind set of my life with my illness.. thank to all at SL, food, hose keepers, support team and therapist all had a part on my recovery.
05 Jul 2020
I felt low when I arrived but started to feel positive within a short space of time. I’m ready to get to runcorn and get going.
04 Jul 2020
This detox has gone better than any of my others, I have enjoyed my time here and I would definitely recommend this to someone else. The isolation has been difficult not being able to exercise but I just got on with it. Staff have been good and supportive .
04 Jul 2020
This was my first detox, I found it to be comfortable, I did not struggle. I got a wake up call yesterday when I saw somebody who was really I’ll, I now understand the effects that alcohol can do to you.
04 Jul 2020
When I came to Recovery Lighthouse I was in a bad way (to put it politely). I am actually sad to be leaving here tomorrow as it has been such a positive experience for me. The house is very homely and comfortable, the food is amazing but more importantly I have learned so much during my time here. I feel that I have sufficient enough knowledge and tools to help maintain my sobriety when I go onto secondary treatment, knowing that also it is only me who can make it work for myself, and for my family! the staff here are very supportive & friendly…. Love to you all and a massive thank you! Except for Daisy who kicked my sorry butt at Cluedo one night! I’ll forgive but I shall not forget 😀 … Jokes aside ALL of the staff are wonderful! I hope to see each of you in the future with some added sobriety time under my belt… They have just informed me that Chris always gets mentioned on these so here is to you guys lol…. Mehdi, DAISY!!!!, Paula, Marcia, Mark, Debbie, Cameron, Dave, Lewes, Brooke, Linzi, Lee and Nicky – All of you are amazing! Thank you so much for everything during my stay here and best wishes for the future! …
03 Jul 2020
I’d like other alcoholics and users to be aware of the benefits and high level of counsellor and staff’s all round care.
03 Jul 2020
The care and support I have received has been excellent. I have started a journey of recovery from my addiction which I can continue when I return home.
03 Jul 2020
Thank you to the recovery lighthouse for the past 28 days. All the staff are really lovely but they will really push you to open up and get the most out of you and tackle your addiction. It is obvious they genuinely care about your well being and making sure you understand the importance of sobriety as a recovering addict. It can be tough at times but if you put the work in it is worth it and you will leave feeling you have the tools to implement them in real life! Food is really good too, thanks Chris! Highly recommend.
02 Jul 2020
Beautiful and helpful staff, anything you need is given if possible. Good food and a genuinely warm welcome.
02 Jul 2020
I am very pleased at myself for having the heart to come to terms with my addiction and take the step to change my life by going into rehab it was the best move i did in starting new life, the program help not just with detoxing but it help by getting to route of the problem the staff are extremely sportive and highly experienced and professional. not forgetting the food also amazing i will always be grateful to the team of liberty house thank you for letting express myself and being there to listen
02 Jul 2020
I couldn’t of ended up in a better place the staff are awesome, they are more than attentive and will bend over backwards to make sure the care you receive is provided to the best of there ability. The food was great, which is always a plus especially when kicking a habit. It has been the best decision of my life coming here i cant thank them enough for all the help and support. Id highly recommend Liberty House to anyone trying to tern there lives around . Many thanks
02 Jul 2020
i entered here a very broken and scared individual. the staff bend over backwards for you here nothing is to much trouble. the chef also caters to your personal needs. i leave here with a great understanding of what i suffer with and direction of the right paths to take. im still fearful but lernt there is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fear. cos rosie sharron dave pablo tony hsve given me a gift i will never be able to show my true gratitude for. thanks to qall at liberty house
01 Jul 2020
I have been very happy with my treatment, I didnt want to go home. However I feel ready to go home. I have learned to manage my stress levels. Fantastic team.
01 Jul 2020
I really enjoyed my time at Banbury Lodge the staff here work so hard and never fail to make sure we are looked after. I have gained my life back thanks to the support from all the staff. Big thank you to Lianne for ,aking the days here brighter.
01 Jul 2020
I am overall extremely pleased with the treatment I’ve had here at Recovery Lighthouse. The staff have been absolutely wonderful, so kind and easy to approach. All the workshops I found engaging and enjoyed thoroughly. I am thankful for all the help I’ve been given and I feel confident I can succeed in my recovery journey.
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